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    United StatesDepartment ofAgriculture

    Home andGarden BulletinNumber 265

    How to Buy

    MEAT

    PREPARED BY

    AgriculturalMarketingService

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    How t o Buy

    MEAT

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in itsprograms on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability,political beliefs, and marital or familial status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to allprograms.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communica-tion of program information (braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact theUSDA Office of Communications at (202) 720-5881 (voice) or (202) 720-7808

    (TDD).

    To file a complaint, write the Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department ofAgriculture, Washington, DC 20250, or call (202) 720-7327 (voice) or(202) 720-1127 (TDD). USDA is an equal employment opportunity employer.

    Consumers buy meat because they like

    its taste and flexibility for being prepared

    in a variety of ways for just about any

    occasion.

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    Points to ConsiderWholesomeness...quality...nutritive value...cost...convenience...and informative labeling are some of thepoints to consider when making meat purchase deci-

    sions.

    Also consider the amount of meat that can be stored inthe freezer, the amount of raw meat that can be usedwithin a few days of purchase, and the kinds of cutsand quality preferred.

    Wholesomeness

    All meat processed in plants which sell their productsacross State lines must, under Federal law, be in-spected for wholesomeness by USDAs Food Safetyand Inspection Service. This mandatory inspectionprogram is paid for by tax dollars. Many Statesoperate their own inspection program for plants thatproduce meat for sale within State lines. These pro-grams must be certified by USDA as equal to theFederal program. Federal and State inspectors super-

    vise the cleanliness and operating procedures of meatpacking and processing plants to make sure meat is notcontaminated or adulterated.

    Meat that has passed Federal inspection for whole-someness is stamped with a round purple mark, U.S.

    INSPD & PSD. The mark is put on carcasses andmajor cuts, so it might not appear on such cuts asroasts and steaks. However, meat that is packaged inan inspected facility will have an inspection legendwhich identifies the plant on the label.

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    Labeling for Safety

    Meat inspection procedures are designed to minimizethe likelihood of harmful bacteria being present inmeat products. However, some bacteria could be

    present and could become a problem if the meat is nothandled properly. Thats why its important tohandle meat properly during storage and prepara-tion. USDArequires that safe handling and cookinginstructions be put on all packages of raw meat. Thisincludes any meat product not considered ready to

    eat.

    Processed meat products that are considered ready-to-eat - such as hot dogs, luncheon meats, or cannedham - are also perishable. They should be refriger-ated and handled with care to prevent spoilage.

    Information about meat inspection and safety shouldbe directed to USDAs Meat and Poultry Hotline. Thenational toll free number is 800-535-4555. In theWashington, DC, area, call (202) 720-3333.

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    Nutritive Value

    Meat is a source of protein, niacin, vitamins B6 andB12, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Fat, saturated fat,and cholesterol are also present in all meat; the

    amount varies depending on the species, the cut ofmeat, and the amount of marbling (fat) that is distrib-uted within the lean. Use theNutrition Facts panel oneach individual product label to learn about thenutrient content of that food and how it fits into anoverall daily diet. TheNutrition Facts panel must

    appear on all processed meat products, while its use isvoluntary on single-ingredient raw meat.

    Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterolto help reduce the risk of getting certain diseases andto help maintain a healthy weight. The Dietary

    Guidelines for Americans suggests choosing a dietcontaining 30 percent or less of calories from fat, andless than 10 percent of calories from saturated fattyacids. Also, some health authorities suggest thatdietary cholesterol be limited to an average of 300milligrams or less per day.

    The Food Guide Pyramid (see inside back cover)suggests 2 to 3 servings each day of food from themeat group, the equivalent of 5 to 7 ounces of cookedlean meat, poultry, or fish. Count as a serving 2 to 3ounces of cooked lean meat, about the size of an

    average hamburger or a deck of playing cards.

    Tips: Buy lean cuts of meat, those with less marbling(fat) distributed within the lean. Most of the visiblefat is trimmed before meat is sold to consumers, andany remaining visible fat can be trimmed off. Ground

    beef can contain variable amounts of fat. To reducefat in cooked meats, broil, roast, bake, simmer, ormicrowave meat rather than fry. Drain and discardany fat that accumulates during cooking. Organmeats are high in cholesterol and should only be eatenoccasionally. When you select cuts of meat with a

    higher fat content, balance your fat intake by choosingother foods that are low in fat.

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    Fat Content of Typical RetailMeat Products

    Selected Total fat Saturated Cholesterol Calories

    meat fatty acids

    products

    3 ounces (grams) (grams) (milligrams) (Kcal)

    Beef eyeof round,roasted,

    1/4 trim

    lean onlyUS DA S elec t 3 1 59 136US DA C hoice 5 2 59 149

    lean and fat

    US DA S elec t 10 4 61 184US DA C hoice 12 5 62 205

    Beef ribeyesteak, broiled,0 trim

    lean onlyUS DA S elec t 7 3 68 168US DA C hoice 10 4 68 191

    lean and fatUS DA S elec t 17 7 70 242US DA C hoice 19 8 70 265

    Ground beefpatty, cooked

    extra lea n 14 5 71 215reg ula r 17 7 76 245

    Pork centerloin, roasted

    lea n only 8 3 67 150lea n a nd fa t 11 4 68 180

    Beef liver,braised 4 2 331 135

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    Quality

    Quite apart from the wholesomeness of meat is itsquality - its tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Consum-ers can be assured of always getting the quality of

    meat they expect by looking for the USDA gradeshield on raw meat packages. The shield-shapedUSDA grade mark is a guide to the quality of meat.Its also your assurance that the meat is wholesomebecause only meat that has first passed inspection forwholesomeness may be graded. USDAs quality

    grading program is voluntary and paid for by userfees.

    USDAs Meat Grading ProgramUSDA has quality grades for beef, veal, lamb, year-ling mutton, and mutton. It also has yield grades forbeef, pork, and lamb. Although there are USDAquality grades for pork, these do not carry through tothe retail level as do the grades for other kinds ofmeat.

    USDA meat grades are based on nationally uniformFederal standards of quality. They are applied byexperienced USDA graders, who are routinelychecked by supervisors who travel throughout thecountry to make sure that all graders are interpretingand applying the standards in a uniform manner. AUSDA Choice rib roast, for example, must have metthe same grade criteria no matter where or when youbuy it.

    When meat is graded, a shield-shaped purple mark isstamped on the carcass. With todays close trimmingat the retail level, however, you may not see theUSDA grade shield on meat cuts at the store. Instead,retailers put stickers with the USDA grade shield onindividual packages of meat. In addition, gradeshields and inspection legends may appear on bagscontaining larger wholesale cuts.

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    Using USDA Meat GradesSince many cuts of meat - such as steaks, chops, androasts - are labeled with a USDA grade, you donthave to be a meat expert to identify the quality youwant.

    Just look in the meat counter or case until you find thecut you want. Then, look for the USDA quality shieldon the package to make sure youre getting the qualityyou want.

    Some meat counters may contain meat that isntUSDA graded. Instead, it may be labeled with acompanys private quality label or sold without agrade. Where this occurs, you will need to becomefamiliar with the purchase specifications of eachcompany to be sure of the quality you are buying.

    Sometimes a store will advertise that it sells USDA-graded meat, but the individual packages dont bear aUSDA grade shield. When this happens, you can askto see some of the boxes of untrimmed wholesale cutsto determine if the meat has actually been graded by

    USDA and what the quality is.

    Buying BeefRegardless of their quality grade, some cuts of meatare naturally more tender than others. Cuts from the

    less-used muscles along the back of the animal - therib and loin sections - will always be more tender thanthose from the more active muscles such as theshoulder, flank, and leg.

    Since the most tender cuts make up only a small

    proportion of a beef or lamb carcass, they are ingreatest demand and usually command a higher pricethan other cuts.

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    Each USDA beef quality grade is a measure of adistinct level of quality - and it takes eight grades tospan the range. They are USDA Prime, Choice,Select, Sta